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Tommy plays a mean pinball

The Upper Canada College-Bishop Strachan School co-production of The Who’s epic rock opera Tommy opened to an enthusiastic audience at BSS, Feb. 25.

Directed by BSS’s Brendon Allen, the compelling story follows the life of young Tommy over 20 years. Tommy is forever traumatized when his soldier father returns from the Second World War and kills his mother’s lover, taken up during dad’s absence. Despite Tommy’s inability to see, hear or speak, this “deaf, dumb and blind kid” becomes a worldwide celebrity thanks to his skill at playing pinball.

Musically, the show was outstanding. The audience was treated to not just one, but two live bands made up of incredibly talented musicians including Savinay Chopra, Ciaran Wilkie and Flynn Tanner. They played all the music that has made this musical so famous. They absolutely rocked.

The actors brilliantly portrayed each of their characters in a moving and inspiring way. The audience felt Captain Walker’s struggle, played by David Cash, as he helplessly stood by and watched his son live in darkness and silence.  Through brilliant acting and singing, Cash made us all feel his pain. Luciano Cesta who played the alcoholic, child abuser Uncle Ernie, eerily and powerfully showed us the dark side of human nature through gesture and song. And Kurt Karul wonderfully portrayed the young Tommy. His ability to stay in character through a mesmerizing stare was extraordinary.

The ensemble powerfully sang and danced in a number of roles, from police and pimps to hobos and lawyers. Graham Burton, Mark Debono, Theo Iordache, Benji McLean, Nathan McLean and Charlie Watson did not miss a beat. The BSS girls’ choreography, singing and dancing truly made the story come to life. The show ran smoothly thanks to assistant stage manager Dennis Semenovych. It was an incredible performance, and in the end, the audience could hardly believe their own eyes.

The show runs for two more nights, Feb. 27 and 28 at 7 p.m. (Feb. 28 is sold out.) A few tickets are still available for Feb. 27 and can be purchased here for $20. For pictures of this amazing show, see below.

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Founder’s Dinner emphasizes giving and creativity

Things have changed a lot at Upper Canada College since Sir John Colborne first came up with the idea for the school and it opened its doors in 1829, but two things have remained hallmarks over its history: an atmosphere of generous giving; and talented alumni. Both of those were celebrated at the annual Founder’s Dinner in honour of Colborne hosted by UCC on Feb. 10.

Approximately 450 guests mixed and mingled in the Upper School student centre after arriving at 6 p.m., enjoying a well-stocked bar and tasty appetizers along with their conversations. They could get souvenir photos taken in front of a UCC backdrop and watch Grade 9 student Anthony Hua solve Rubik’s Cube puzzles in front of a portrait of former board of governors chair and 2014 John D. Stevenson Award recipient Andy Pringle ’69 that he created out of the cubes. Several fanfares from three student trumpeters eventually prodded folks to take the party downstairs for the main event in the Hewitt Athletic Centre.

There was no Prep boy singing “O Canada” this year, but Grade 3 student Tom Coxford did a fine job of saying grace after being introduced by dinner chairman and master of ceremonies Robert Elder ’82. Association Council president Jim Garner ’77 brought up John D. Stevenson ’47, who presented the award bearing his name to Pringle, who has served the College in a wide variety of roles over 33 years.

“Volunteering for a cause you love and that you know is important is in itself its own reward,” said Pringle in his acceptance speech. “It’s also, in the case of UCC, very much a team sport. I am really particularly fortunate to have worked with so many talented and dedicated people who’ve challenged me, pushed me and taught me so much.”

Pringle singled out former art teacher and board secretary Vern Mould, chief administrative officer Patty MacNicol, principals Dick Sadlier, Doug Blakey and Jim Power, several board members and unnamed others “who have helped transform the school that I left in 1969 to what it is today.”

Pringle continues to give his time to UCC as co-chair of the Think Ahead campaign, and urged everyone in attendance to do their part to push the amount raised from the current total of $82 million to the goal of $100 million to support scholarships and bursaries, state-of-the-art classrooms and labs, innovative programs overseen by talented faculty members, and a world-class boarding program.

Guests were then given time to enjoy a delicious dinner catered by Oliver & Bonacini Events (the president of which is Old Boy Andrew Oliver ’02) as the UCC Community Band — which wowed the crowd when it made its debut at Association Day last September — performed Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business.” It wrapped up its brief set with Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” sung by the evening’s keynote speaker, Leonard Dick ’82, which caught everyone by surprise.

Principal Jim Power offered remarks about how UCC encourages creativity and taking risks before Grade 12 student Hudson Southey-Gordon was invited on stage to officially introduce Dick. The head of the College’s film club was briefly interrupted by two of his peers, who comically carted boxes of scripts on stage in hope that the guest of honour would help give them their big break in Hollywood. Dick — an Emmy Award-winning television writer and producer who has worked on shows including Lost, House, The Mentalist and The Good Wife — joked that he’d put his name on the scripts and take credit for them if they sold.

Dick used slides to augment an entertaining presentation during which he talked about the relationship between business and creativity, what his job entails and how a TV episode is created. He concluded Founder’s Dinner by telling parents to let their children pursue creative opportunities and support their decisions to embark on careers in the arts.

Here are some photos from Founder’s Dinner:

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Joint production of Agamemnon impresses in all areas

Agamemnon is one of the oldest surviving plays in the Western canon, but pithy and passionate performances by Upper Canada College and The Bishop Strachan School students propelled it nearly 25 centuries forward without losing a step.

The talented cast and crew enjoyed the full capabilities of the David Chu Theatre, with a monumental two-storey set and more than 100 lights, as they recounted Aeschylus’ classic tragedy from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1. Besides the eponymous hero-king of Greek myth, the cast brought to life a diverse and balanced set of characters, including the four separate members of the Chorus that carries much of the play’s narrative weight. In keeping with the traditional aims of Greek drama, they summoned the full range of human emotion — from triumph and reunion to catastrophic loss.

Congratulations to the UCC boys who participated in the cast — John Gilchrist (IB2), Alex Green (IB2), Alex Czegledy (IB1), Seth Zucker (IB1) and Jake Bradshaw (FY) — as well as brilliant technicians Chris Tully (IB1), Ernest Leung (IB1) and Jordan Young (IB1).

Teachers and directors Dale Churchward and Heather Crawford’s guidance and ambition made everything possible, along with the many faculty members, students and parent volunteers who did invaluable work along the way.

—John Lutz, stage manager

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UCC and BSS present Agamemnon




Upper Canada College and The Bishop Strachan School’s theatre departments have teamed up to tackle Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, adapted by esteemed Canadian scholar and poet Anne Carson for a modern audience.

UCC’s David Chu Theatre is pushing its limits with more than 100 separate lighting fixtures and a dynamic three-dimensional set to stage the play. The UCC team includes students John Gilchrist, Alex Green, Alex Czegledy, Seth Zucker and Jake Bradshaw on stage and Chris Tully as head of technical design under the direction of teachers Heather Crawford and Dale Churchward.

Tickets cost $15 and there will be showings at 7:30 p.m. from Wednesday, Jan. 29 to Saturday, Feb. 1.

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UCC wins at Model UN conference in New York

The Upper Canada College Model United Nations team was named the best large delegation at the Columbia University Model United Nations Conference and Exposition in New York City earlier this month.

The conference is unique in that it’s crisis-oriented and delegates were forced to respond to events throughout the four-day simulation.

Expectations were high as the club was looking to retain the best delegation title it earned last year. Once again, UCC didn’t disappoint. After four hard days of debating, UCC emerged victorious. Seventeen of UCC’s 20 delegates also won individual awards.

UCC faculty members Matt Griem and Jyoti Sehgal organized the successful trip and supervised the school’s delegates while they were in the Big Apple.

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New library program teaches boys how to ‘read for growth’

If you’re a book lover, how do you find the elusive book that engrosses you completely? More valuable still are the life-changing books that alter your very belief system or that expand your understanding. Though a critical life skill, learning to develop and research one’s reading interests doesn’t come naturally.

That’s why a new program called “Reading for Growth,” offered through the Macintosh Library (in the context of university counselling’s careers course for Foundation Year students), intends to empower boys to seek out the books they need for intellectual growth and lifelong success. (And no, Upper School Teacher Librarian Mari Roughneen will tell you, Google searches aren’t the only research tool out there!)

“We know the boys are readers but we’re trying to foster a more sophisticated relationship with reading,” says Roughneen. “We need to find ways for boys to connect to personal reading outside their [prescribed] curriculum.”

Started last October, each of the 150 FY students will eventually have an initial, individual consultation with library staff, with the ultimate goal of creating a customized reading portfolio. They’ll be asked about their interests and shown how to use databases and other resources. After a two-week discovery period, they’ll submit three reading choices based on their findings. The boys are required to use  “readers’ advisory tools,” basically online booklists or in-library book collections curated by theme, interest or intended audience.

“The goal is to connect the ‘right reader with the right book’1,” says Roughneen. “We explore the ‘hows and whys’ of making self-directed reading choices, using various processes and tools.”

So what’s the benefit of playing extra-curricular matchmaker between books and boys? For one, it’s great preparation for personal essays on college applications, where being original and widely read is an impressive asset, explains assistant librarian Max Dionisio.

As well, having familiarity with the library in FY is great preparation for heavier research demands to come, not to mention the skills of self-advocacy. “It’s great for boys to be able to seek out help in a structured way,” says Roughneen. “It’s not initially a comfortable conversation for some boys, to approach a librarian and figure out what they need.”

Even more important, creating a culture of reading for growth makes good sense for lifelong well-being, says Roughneen. “Personal growth is important and, ideally, neverending. The ability to support one’s interests and development through reading is essential to that process.”

1Ranganathan, S. R. (1931) The five laws of library science. Madras, India: Madras Library Association

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Senior debaters reign at provincials qualifier

UCC debaters strike again. The powerfully persuasive team of Elliot Kaufman and John Lutz, both IB2, placed first at the Ontario Student Debating Union Metro West qualifiers at Richmond Hill High School, Saturday, Dec. 14. In another impressive finish, classmate Chris Taylor and Foundation Year student Logan Ye took third place.

Our debaters will now advance to the provincial finals in February, having beat out 14 other teams at the four-round, daylong competition. Also notable, all four of debaters placed in the top six, in the individual debating competition. Lutz was third, Taylor fourth, Kaufman fifth and Ye sixth.

“Not only did the boys win, but they did so with grace, poise and respect for the other teams,” says senior debating adviser and Theory of Knowledge co-ordinator Gregory McDonald. (Along with the other senior debating advisers, Lulu Wang and Steven Penner, McDonald extends a special thanks to Elliot’s father, Allan Kaufman, for his excellent judging skills and his continuous support of the club.)

Photo: (l-r) John Lutz, Eliot Kaufman, Christopher Taylor and Logan Ye

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‘Tis the season for the Primary December Concert

Prep students covered a lot of seasonal ground with their performances at the December Concerts, Dec. 3 and 4 in Weston Hall. It’s a very special concert as it’s the only time all SK through Form 5 boys come together for a performance. The boys charmed the audience of friends and family with their exuberance and dedication.

“Parents, relatives and friends were most impressed with the remarkable progress the choir, and the Form 7 jazz and concert bands have made since September,” says Bernard Lecerf, Middle Division head.

Please enjoy these short videos of concert highlights:

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Impressive Y2 drawings adorn the student centre

art3Don’t miss the spectacular Y2 pencil drawing exhibition on the creativity centre’s wall gallery. The impressive display illustrates the young artists’ keen sense of observation, attention to detail and refined drawing skills. The work demonstrates the skillful shading techniques the students used to portray still life objects.The exhibition ends in January.

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